The Royal Family is a testament to tradition and longevity and nothing proves this more than the castles and palaces that Monarchs have built over the centuries as their homes and centres of government. So to celebrate these grand structures, here are 5 facts about one of the oldest Royal Residences, The Palace of Holyroodhouse also known as Holyrood Palace.
The original building that was constructed was an Abbey. Rood is an Old English word meaning “pole” and where we get the word “rod” from. It was specifically used when referring to the cross that Christ died on so Holyrood or Holy Rood translates into Holy Cross. Holyroodhouse was the name of the guest house beside the Abbey.
Adjacent to Holyrood Abbey, King James IV began constructing a palace in 1501 and although very little of that structure remains it opened the door for future Monarchs to start building here, beginning with James V who constructed the still standing north-west tower. The Palace in its current form was constructed in 1671 after the restoration of Charles II and while it saw a decline after the Union of Scotland and England in the early 18th century a visit from George IV began its return to its former glory with restoration and redecoration. George V saw the Palace modernized with heating and electricity before his visit in 1911 and it was declared the official residence of the Monarch in Scotland in the 1920s.
The Keeper of Holyroodhouse manages the Palace when the Royal Family are not in residence, a hereditary position that was created in 1646 by King Charles I who granted the office to James Hamilton the 1st Duke of Hamilton. This tradition has been maintained since then and Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton is the current Keeper of Holyroodhouse.
Around the end of June to the beginning of July Queen Elizabeth II makes a week-long formal visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse to acknowledge the achievements and culture of Scotland. There are various events that Her Majesty can take part in during this time but there are three events that happen annually: the Ceremony of Keys which officially welcomes Her Majesty to Scotland and is held in Edinburgh, an Investiture ceremony for Scottish citizens who have made the Honours List and are able to receive their honours from Her Majesty, and a Garden Party which entertains around 8,000 guests- this is a tradition that began with King George V.
The Palace as a tourist attraction began around 1768 with the Duke of Hamilton admitting guests to view Mary, Queen of Scots apartments after paying an entrance fee. Today the Palace is open to the public when the Royal Family is not in residence and access is maintained by the Royal Collection Trust. There are several tours available which still include a tour of Queen Mary’s apartments as well as the State apartments and a guided tour of the Abbey. There is the Cafe at the Palace where Afternoon Tea is served and souvenirs can be purchased at the Palace of Holyroodhouse Shop. During the summer months there is a guided tour of the Palace gardens which include areas that aren’t usually open to public access.
Bonus Fact: Like many ancient buildings in the United Kingdom many have claimed that a ghost wanders Holyrood Palace. Agnes Sampson was tried and convicted of witchcraft and executed on January 28 1591 and it’s said her naked ghost remains there.
photo credit: marcus_and_sue via photopin
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